Five facts about St. Robert Bellarmine, SJ, doctor of the Church

Patron saint of catechists and catechumens

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St. Robert Bellarmine/Public Domain

St. Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621) was a scholar who focused primarily on studies of Church history and the Church Fathers. In response to the Protestant Reformation, much of his efforts went toward organizing Church doctrine for clarity and understanding. A cardinal, Jesuit, and a doctor of the church, his feast day is Sept. 17.

St. Robert Bellarmine is the patron saint of catechists and catechumens. Coincidentally, Catechetical Sunday occurs on his feast day this year. Here are five facts about him.

  1. St. Robert Bellarmine was related to a pope

Born at Montepulciano, Italy, St. Robert Bellarmine was the son of Cynthia Cervini. His mother was the sister of Cardinal Marcello Cervini who would go on to become Pope Marcellus II. Pope Marcellus II served as pope for only 22 days, making him the sixth-shortest serving pope.

  1. One of his hymns is included in the Roman Breviary

St. Robert Bellarmine took to poetry in his youth and is said to have memorized many of Virgil’s works. St. Robert Bellarmine even wrote a hymn to Mary Magdalene that is now included in the Roman Breviary, a liturgical book containing prayers, hymns, readings, and Psalms for the everyday use of bishops, priests, and deacons.

  1. St. Robert Bellarmine delivered bad news to Galileo

In 1616, under order from Pope Paul V, St. Robert Bellarmine notified Galileo that his theory of heliocentricity was opposed to biblical teaching and could not at the time be supported by the Church.

  1. St. Robert Bellarmine acted as both a professor and a preacher

St. Robert Bellarmine is prominently remembered as a learned man well-versed in theology and philosophy. He published many works addressing various heresies and underlying philosophical questions regarding theology. One of his works included the three-volume Disputations about the Controversies of the Christian Faith Against the Heretics of This Time, which addressed theological arguments between Catholics and Protestants.

  1. He was spiritual director to St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a fellow Jesuit

While St. Aloysius Gonzaga (1568–1591) was stationed in Rome, St. Robert Bellarmine acted as his spiritual director. St. Robert Bellarmine was also present for St. Aloysius Gonzaga’s death in 1591. St. Robert Bellarmine helped get St. Aloysius Gonzaga beatified.

St. Robert Bellarmine, pray for us! 

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